"Now Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let’s go out to the field.' While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' 'I don’t know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother’s keeper?' The Lord said, 'What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.'" (Genesis 4:8-10)
We live in a violent nation.
We spend billions on violent movies, we binge-watch countless hours of bloody TV-MA series, we spend days of our lives killing people in first-person shooter video games—and then we are shocked by yet another story of a mass killing. Really?!? I'm not surprised by mass shootings. I'm surprised anyone is surprised anymore. Why? Because this is our culture. This is our nation.
I'm more than a little cynical about our nation's ability to change this love-hate relationship with violence. Gun control or not, destruction of life is sown into the fabric; it's the way things work around here. In the wake of yet another brutal, senseless tragedy, people immediately retreat to their political corner, express outrage at the other side, send thoughts and prayers, and then promptly forget about it a few days later...only to be outraged by the next tragedy. 3,000 years ago, the Teacher wrote, "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecc 1:2) Sometimes that exactly how I feel.
But these murdered people, gunned down at a concert in Las Vegas or a church in Sutherland Springs, TX, are our brothers and sisters. They are the neighbors Jesus called us to love as ourselves. And their blood cries out to our Heavenly Father who is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. So as followers of Jesus, how are we supposed to process this? What are we supposed to do? Whatever we're led to do—whether seeking to bring comfort or medical help or justice or reform or something else—we cannot lose our hope.
I have not lost hope in the power and love of God to change us from the inside out, to change our desires and values, to change our culture. I have not lost hope in the gospel which says that Jesus, the Son of God himself, was willing to suffer and die a violent death, to set us free from an endless cycle of violence. I have not lost hope in the story of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to change our stories. I have not lost hope in the power of the Spirit to prevail in our struggle, "...not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12) I have not lost hope in the church to be a people united by good news and a place for healing and strength—even when violence visits on Sunday morning.
Father, bring healing and peace to our nation. Spirit, help us to be people of unfailing hope, armed with good news, who work to bring comfort, help, justice, reform, and whatever else is needed. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.